Mango; A Sweet Tradition
Long, long ago in a mystical forest in the Philippines, there was a beautiful and very smart young woman, named Pangga, who lived with her elderly parents in a wooden villa. She was also very skilled in many trades and earned quite a lot of money. Her parents, who were very old, wished to see her married before they passed away, but hoped for only the smartest and richest man to be her husband to match their daughter’s industriousness and beauty. Unfortunately, their dreams were crushed when she fell in love with a poet, a penniless vagabond named Manong, who promised her that he would bring down the sun and moon to shine on their modest home. Pangga’s parents dismissed the sweet-talking poet and hoped she would find someone more… down to earth. One day, Manong and Pangga disappeared into the forest. Not long after, a new tree was discovered in that same forest with fruit that was crescent-shaped like the moon, yellow-skinned like the sun, sweet like Manong’s words, and rich in nutrients like Pangga’s deep intellect. The fruit was called “manga,” a mix of their names, which we now pronounce as mango.
Mangos have been a favorite in Hawai‘i since they were introduced in the 1820s from the Philippines and India. There’s something about the bright red, yellow, and orange skin of the mango that catches the eye and tempts the taste buds like it’s foreshadowing a glorious burst of sweet flavor with every bite of the mango’s succulent meat. It’s been inspiring cultures for centuries and quickly became a food staple in Hawai‘i, as mango trees were planted in yards across the state. As many varieties of mango ripen in the warm summer sun, mango-lovers dig up their favorite recipes for pickled mango, mango jam, mango pie, mango bread, and all sorts or mango-infused dishes to reap the bounty of this awesome tree.
There are so many ways to enjoy mangoes, no matter the variety. You can find ripe mangoes and prepared foods made with fresh island mango at Whole Foods Queen and the Kakaako Farmers’ Market. If you’re keen to dig into that ripe mango, fresh from the tree or the market basket, it’s worth getting to know how to peel and slice a mango to get the best experience possible.
First, set the mango on a cutting board so that the crescent is facing upward. Mangoes have a long, slim seed in the middle that’s best to remove before eating. With a sharp knife, slice the mango lengthwise on each side of the seed, getting as close as possible to the seed. If you set up your mango properly, you’ll be left with both sides of the mango with the skin still attached. Now, take your knife and score the mango vertically and horizontally, creating delectable little squares. From here, grab a spoon and scoop out those delicious little chunks and enjoy. For a frosty alternative, freeze a whole mango. Slice the slides away from the seed, grab a spoon, and dig in. The frozen mango meat has an ice cream-like texture.
In Hawai‘i, pickled mango is one of the most popular ways to enjoy this summer fruit. Most recipes for Hawai‘i-style pickled mango are passed down from generation to generation and shared with family, friends, and neighbors. There’s no better way to beat the heat than with an ice-cold jar of homemade sweet and tangy pickled mango. Here’s how to do it.
Hawai‘i-Style Pickled Mango
- ~12 mangoes
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup Japanese vinegar
- ¼ cup salt
- red food coloring (optional)
Peel mango and slice into thick ¼ inch to ½ inch strips. Discard peel and seeds. Place peeled and sliced mango in a 1-gallon container with lid and tightly pack to displace as much volume in the jar as possible.
In a stockpot, mix together water, sugar, Japanese vinegar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil until the liquid has a syrup consistency. Remove from heat and cool the syrup. Add food coloring a few drops at a time (optional) until there is a nice red color. Pour syrup into container with mango slices, place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 days before consuming. Enjoy!